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Ukraine attacks advanced Russian air defenses in Crimea with Western missiles

Ukraine has reportedly dealt a significant blow to Russia's advanced air defenses in Crimea, using older missiles supplied by the West. Ukrainian forces claimed to have hit one Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile unit and two S-300 anti-aircraft missile units on the Russian-annexed peninsula. The units were said to have stopped working immediately after the attack.

The type of missiles used in the attack was not specified, but it is believed that they were probably ATACMS, US-made tactical ballistic missiles. This claim is supported by the Washington DC-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War and an influential Russian military blogger, Rybar, who claimed that Ukraine had attacked Crimea with at least 12 ATACMS missiles.

The S-400 is Russia's most advanced air defense system, first operational in 2007, more than two decades after the ATACMS, which have been in service since 1986. Despite the advanced nature of the S-400, Ukraine reported that none of its missiles were intercepted during the attack, undermining Russia's claims of a “highly effective” air defense.

Rajan Menon, director of the Grand Strategy program at the US think tank Defense Priorities, described the S-400 as Russia's “first-line air defense system”. However, he also noted that his performance in Ukraine has been “mixed”, and that Ukraine has managed to get some out of it.

The S-400 was developed as a rival to the US Patriot system and has been hailed as the “best long-range air defense system in the world” by the head of Rosoboronexport, Russia's state military company. Despite this, experts have pointed out that the system has shown vulnerabilities in Russia's ongoing invasion and have credited Ukraine with using skillful and creative tactics to target the weapons.

The situation could worsen for Russia, as new permits given by some allies allow Ukraine to use Western-donated weapons to attack military targets in Russia. This could jeopardize Russia's S-400 and other air defenses. Meanwhile, Ukraine has vowed to retake Crimea, which Russia uses to launch attacks against Ukraine, and has reportedly used the Western-supplied ATACMS to attack the Russian Kerch ferry crossing Crimea.

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